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Start Your New Career at 50: These Traits More Important Than Your Résumé

By Jeff Henning April 23, 2017 Managing Money

It is well understood that hiring managers primarily choose a candidate based upon a perceived chemistry. How will this candidate fit into our culture? Will I want to be around them for the large amount of time I spend at work?

Here are a few traits to cultivate if you want to start a new career at 50 – or simply find a job that you love!

Sense of Humor

One of the traits that plays nicely into this huge piece of the equation is having an active sense of humor. This doesn’t mean that you should become the company jester, practical joker or entertainer, although small quantities of these never hurt. It suggests that not taking everything too seriously is a unique and refreshing approach when becoming the “new person” in a company.

Self-effacing humor is especially powerful. Remembering and sharing that you are human, make mistakes and have flaws is a very honest and powerful force to share. Plan to make a few humorous remarks during an interview. Show that you have a less-than-always serious side about you.

Keep it light and have some fun along the way. It’s your way to show that the position you’re seeking or company that you’re joining, while important to you, isn’t perceived to be a matter of life or death, make or break, all or nothing situation.

Positive Attitude

Having a positive attitude marries well with having a sense of humor and is critically important. Employers will look for candidates who are focused on the right goals and vision, and who have a relentless commitment to accomplishing them. The tougher the assignment, the more fiercely dedicated they become to accomplishing it. It takes less energy to carry a positive attitude throughout the day than to cave in to negativity, cynicism and sarcasm.

Have you ever worked with a great group, except for the one person who carried the dark cloud above them? Eventually, the cloud rains down upon the group, spoiling the positive vibe and permeating even the most optimistic of the group. Don’t be that person, for your sake as well as ours.


Another powerful and non-negotiable trait to possess is integrity. This is defined as doing things following a code of honor, ethics, process and policy. The Japanese have a policy called Jidoka. It is rooted in the cultural trait of saving face, or in being honorable and dependable. One is disgraced if they “lose face” by dishonoring another.

Jidoka is one of the two pillars of the Toyota Production System. Toyota deploys this tenet to ensure that each person who is responsible for completing a portion of the production assembly line, does so with complete integrity. If this fails to occur, the line is halted, the defect is given back to the person who caused it, and all wait until this is corrected. The result is that the person causing the issue has lost face with the team and has suffered a crisis of his personal integrity.

The team is only as strong as the sum of its individual parts. So, it is within the company that you seek a position. If integrity is absent, why would anyone want you on their team? The people who work with you must have no doubt that you will do the right thing, whether anyone is watching or not.


Being credible means you do what you said you were going to do. It’s about winning the confidence of others by being true to your word. Integrity and credibility require consistency. This is where trust is built.

If you start your car every morning for a year without fail, you will grow a trust that this will occur very day thereafter. Your car becomes a credible source of transportation. Once we build this trust amongst humans, we became reliable. People can count on us to consistently perform. Imagine a business where each employee was as credible as the next. The possibilities are limitless.


Timeliness isn’t proof that you can tell time. Showing up for your interview on time is a good start. Extending this to actually showing up for work on time, ready to work, is another matter. Many positions have been lost due to an inability to consistently march to the on-time policy set forth by an employer. Being constantly late to work, to meetings with clients, for a deadline or deliverable will get you fired. No one volunteers this in an interview.

Be the exception and make a statement that you are an adult, and as such can not only consistently show timeliness, but also that this is important to you. We trade time for money each work day. Wasting others’ time is a proven way to sabotage your career.

Certainly, many other traits come to mind when discussing the impact of character upon getting hired. Traits such as honesty, communicativeness, work ethic and giving are but a few. We can get by in life without them, but we all strive to work next to those who possess these traits.

What do you think is the most important character trait to project when interviewing for a job? If you were a hiring manager in the past, what quality did you always look for in a potential employee? How did you discern these qualities? Please add your voice to the conversation.

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The Author

Jeff Henning is a business leader and educator in Southern California. He is the father of 10 daughters. His expertise is in creating meaningful change within a business to drive results focused upon people, profits and planet. Jeff is the founder of Square Peg, an organization that recognizes the tremendous challenge Baby Boomers face while attempting to reinvent themselves in the new career landscape.

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